What Can We Know About The Second Coming


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What Can We Know About The Second Coming

  1. 1. WHAT CAN WE KNOW ABOUT THE SECOND COMING? CONTENTS W here do we stand after Christians Divided On 2,000 years of false The Rapture Question . . 2 alarms and the current “future fatigue”? Should we join Why Would He Return those who have thrown in the Again . . .And Again? . . . . 4 towel on prophetic study in favor Some Don’t Agree . . . . 13 of “more practical, life-related Now You See Them, issues”? Or, if we are convinced Now You Don’t . . . . . . 18 that nothing is more practical than World Of Joy;World to look for our Lord’s return, how Of Terror . . . . . . . . . . . 21 should we do that? Should we be expecting an any-moment return? The King Is Back— To Stay! . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Or should we be more concerned about preparing for the coming Helping You years of unparalleled trouble that Help Others. . . . . . . . . 29 the prophets predicted? Christ’s Return In an effort to answer some of And You . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 these questions, Herb Vander Lugt and Dave Branon have written this booklet. It is our prayer that their work will lead you to an increased awareness of what the Bible has to say about our Lord’s promised return. Martin R. De Haan II Managing Editor: David Sper Cover Photo & Design:Terry Bidgood Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.All rights reserved. © 1988,1999,2003 RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in USA © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. CHRISTIANS granted. Just as a child finds DIVIDED ON the inner strength to pull his act together when he thinks THE RAPTURE his dad is coming through QUESTION the front door, so those who live in the expectation that MILLIONS Christ could return at any REPORTED MISSING moment have reason to live News reports arriving from a different and better life. cities around the globe tell of It gives husbands reason to a mysterious disappearance love their wives and to spend of thousands and thousands time with their children. It of people. In some instances gives managers incentive entire families have vanished to be considerate of their without a trace . . . . workers and to treat them the way they would want to C ould this headline and be treated. It gives everyone lead paragraph appear who knows the way to in your newspaper heaven urgent reason to tomorrow? Is it possible that introduce others to Christ— Christ could return today before it is too late. and suddenly remove His But, having said that, children from this earth, could Christ return today? leaving an unbelieving Church people do not world to wonder where all all agree. While all true the Christians have gone? Christians believe in the This is an extremely return of Christ, many practical issue. If Christ disagree about the details could return today, we need of when it will occur. to be ready. We cannot Some think that Christ afford to take the future for will come back at the end 2 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. of the age just prior to rescue of the nation of destroying and recreating the Israel. This view includes heavens and the earth. This those who hold to either is termed amillennialism a pretribulational or a because it does not recognize midtribulational approach a literal millennium (1,000- to the Lord’s return. year reign of Christ on earth). But with these options before us, what do we really know about the second The return of Christ coming of Christ? To begin, represents not only we know that everyone who looks for Christ’s return has the ultimate sense reason to live the kind of life of accountability but that will please the Lord at the ultimate sense His coming. The apostle John recognized this when he of hope as well. wrote, “When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we Others believe that shall see Him as He is. And Christ will return only everyone who has this hope after a predicted period in Him purifies himself, just of unparalleled trouble. as He is pure” (1 Jn. 3:2-3). This view is called Beyond that incentive for posttribulationalism because right living, we believe it is it sees Christ coming for His very important for us to be people after the tribulation. ready for a two-part return Still others, however, of Christ, the first phase of believe that our Lord will which could occur at any return in two phases—once moment—maybe even today. for the salvation of His But what is the evidence church and once for the for such a position? 3 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. WHY WOULD pages will explain why that CHRIST RETURN seems to signal a two-part return of Christ—one for the AGAIN . . . AND church and one for Israel. AGAIN? THE DISTINCTION IMMINENT BETWEEN ISRAEL COND CH AR AND THE CHURCH SE Basic to this discussion is KINGDOM ACTERISTIC SET UP RAPTURE our belief that the first of GLORIOUS RETURN these two returns is for the CO MING rescue and removal of the S IN church (1 Cor. 15:51-53; T E R N I NG VE 1 Th. 4:13-18; 5:9). The YEARS second relates to God’s plan for Israel (Ezek. 36:16-38; T he main evidence for Jer. 23:5-6; Rev. 19:11-21). a two-part return of Both have different places Christ revolves around in God’s prophetic program. (1) God’s distinct plans for Even though both share a Israel and the church and common spiritual ancestry (2) prophecies that describe that can be traced back to the time of Christ’s return as the faith of Abraham (Gal. being both knowable and 3:7), they have different unknowable. The reasoning places in God’s world plan. might seem to be a little Israel represents a nation involved at points, but the with whom God has made main point to keep in mind very earth-centered and is that Scripture teaches us geographically related to be always ready for the promises (Isa. 2:1-6; Ezek. Lord’s return. The following 36–37). But the church is a 4 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. multinational organism becomes evident that some made up of all true believers predictions refer to the Lord’s in Christ—Jew or Gentile. return for the church, while The church is at the center others relate to His return of God’s program until “the as the King and Deliverer fullness of the Gentiles” is of Israel. fulfilled (Rom. 11:25) and This provides an has been given a hope explanation for why the that is to be realized more church is not specifically in heaven than on earth referred to in most of the (1 Th. 4:13-18). book of Revelation. Revelation 6–18 (which describes the “great A two-phase return tribulation” to which Jesus would explain why alluded in Matthew 24:15- Israel but not the 28) never mentions the church. While an argument church is mentioned from silence is not the in the endtime strongest, it does seem events of Revelation. significant. It gives credence to the idea that Christ will have returned to remove the The distinction between church prior to all of those Israel and the church is endtime events related to basic to understanding the restoration and salvation prophecy. Many have called of the nation of Israel, called it the key to unlocking what the “time of Jacob’s trouble” the Bible says about the (Jer. 30:7). The church will future. When the two are already be with her Lord kept distinct, many prophetic and will come with Him details fall into place. Then it when He returns to save 5 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Israel and set up His than the promise of our promised earthly kingdom. Lord’s return. That brings us to a If the Lord were to second important reason return today, all of your for being ready for a worst problems and all of two-part return of Christ. your deepest pleasures The teaching of the Bible includes (a) prophecies of dramatic events that will A two-phase return occur just prior to the Lord’s makes sense if the second coming to earth and first phase (for (b) predictions of another coming at a time that is the church) could not expected. It seems happen at any reasonable to resolve this time and the apparent contradiction by seeing them as describing second phase two different phases of the (for Israel) happens Lord’s return. at a definite, Just keep in mind that if this discussion seems presignaled time. unrelated to your real needs and problems, you’re would suddenly look entirely missing something. Nothing different. For that reason, is more practical than the let’s take a closer look at return of Christ. When seen what the Bible has to say properly, nothing provides about (1) the any-moment more hope. Nothing provides return for the church and (2) more accountability. Nothing the final presignaled event puts the pains and pleasures climaxing the worst trouble of life in better perspective the world has ever seen. 6 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. THE DISTINCTION and the “when” or time BETWEEN AN question related to His ANY-MOMENT AND unannounced coming for A PRESIGNALED the church (vv.36-51). RETURN The signs of His In the Olivet Discourse, coming—alerting all delivered only shortly generations (vv.3-14). before His crucifixion, Jesus The Lord began by answered questions raised describing seven events by His disciples after He had that would occur before His predicted the destruction of return. They will be signs of the temple at Jerusalem. His coming because their They asked, “Tell us, when purpose will be to remind will these things be? And His children throughout the what will be the sign of Your age, saying, “Jesus is coming coming, and of the end of again.” Our Lord talked the age?” (Mt. 24:3). about false christs (v.5), wars Notice that the disciples’ and rumors of wars (v.6), question has three parts: (1) famines (v.7), pestilences When? (2) What will be the and earthquakes (v.7), signs of Christ’s coming? (3) persecution (v.9), defections What will be the signs of the from the faith (vv.10-13), end of the age? As we read and worldwide preaching our Lord’s answer, we find of the gospel (v.14). that He began with the sign It is a fact of history part of the question. He that all seven of these dealt with the signs of His occurrences took place to coming that will alert all some degree during the first generations (vv.3-14), the century. However, like most signs of the end of the age prophecies, the near-at-hand related to Israel (vv.15-35), and far-off elements were 7 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. blended together into one description of a brief, terrible picture. Therefore, Jesus’ time of trouble that will end statements have different when the Lord returns. We applications to different might be puzzled by the generations. To believers statement about the who lived and died under “abomination of desolation” terrible persecution, “the in the “holy place.” But the end” in verse 13 is the end Jewish people to whom Jesus of life. But to those who spoke understood it. They live during the coming knew that according to tribulation, it will be the Daniel 9:24-27 a hostile end of the age. Similarly, Gentile ruler would someday the worldwide preaching of desecrate their temple and the gospel during the first initiate horrendous century was to the Roman persecution. While Luke world (Col. 1:5-6), while 21:20-24 contains some for us today it is to the elements that were partially entire globe. These events fulfilled in the destruction of portrayed by our Lord served Jerusalem and the temple in as signs to first-century AD 70, Matthew 24:15-31 believers and to those of all focuses on the endtime. subsequent generations that There will be: He is coming again. • Enough fear to drive The signs of the end the Jews to the hills of the age—related to (vv.16-18). Israel (vv.15-35). At • Unparalleled trouble verse 15, we suddenly find and woe (vv.19-20). ourselves with a very specific • Great tribulation that prediction about “an would threaten all life abomination of desolation.” if the days were not This is followed by a detailed shortened (vv.21-22). 8 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. • False christs and began to answer the “when” prophets (vv.23-26). question. He didn’t set a • Startling celestial signs date. He said His second and the visible descent coming would catch people of the Son of Man “with by surprise (see Lk. 12:40). power and great glory” (vv.29-31). These will be the signs How can the Lord’s that the end of the age is second coming near. Just as the appearing catch people by of buds on trees signals the soon onset of the summer surprise if it’s going season, so do these signs to be presignaled by show “that it is near, at the all the spectacular very doors” (v.33). In fact, the generation that sees the events described in beginning of these signs (the Matthew 24? desecration of the Jewish temple depicted in verse 15) First, Jesus explained that will not pass off the scene the coming of the Son of before the Lord has returned Man would be “as the days (v.34). of Noah were.” In those The “when” days, despite Noah’s question—related to warnings of danger, the His unannounced people went about their lives return for the church as usual. There was no (vv.36-51). After reminding concern for an imminent His disciples that people flood, because the people who see the signs He had didn’t believe it was coming. spoken of can be sure that There were no heavenly the return will be near, Jesus signs or unusual events— 9 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. only the incessant return to establish His hammering and sawing by kingdom over the earth. Noah and his sons. When This event will be clearly the rains came, the people presignaled. were caught by surprise. After giving a couple of examples of what will happen Why didn’t the when His unexpected coming Lord spell out the takes place, our Lord makes details of His this sobering, yet exciting warning: second coming so Therefore you also be clearly that we ready, for the Son of could put them Man is coming at an hour you do not expect together and know (Mt. 24:44). exactly how and How can the Lord’s when it will occur? second coming catch people by surprise if it is going to be presignaled by all the Matthew 24 describes striking and spectacular both stages of Jesus’ return: events described in Matthew the surprise, any-moment 24:15-31? That’s a key rapture of believers (vv.36- question. The best answer 44) and the glorious return seems to be found in seeing of Jesus at the close of the the Lord’s second coming as tribulation to end the occurring in two stages. destruction and establish First He will come to catch His kingdom (vv.15-35). up (or “rapture”) His own He began with the glorious people. This event will be return because that was unannounced. Then He will the concern of the disciples 10 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. when they asked the teach us that we should live question. He introduced in continual readiness for the unexpected element to our meeting with Him. prepare them for the truths In blending together into about the church age and one picture references to the rapture—truths that would destruction of Jerusalem in be made clear after His AD 70, the endtime sacrilege ascension. in the temple, the apostolic persecution, the endtime PURPOSEFUL great tribulation, the signs in AMBIGUITY the heavenly bodies, and an If you have read our Lord’s unexpected coming, the Lord prophetic words recorded followed the pattern of the in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Old Testament prophets. In and Luke 17 and 21, you their prophecies they also probably wish you could merged, without explanation find somebody who would about sequence, predictions give you a crystal-clear that would occur at four explanation of all He said. different time periods: (1) in If so, join the club! Many their own lifetime, (2) in the people have had the same near future, (3) at Messiah’s experience and asked, first coming, and (4) at the “Why didn’t He spell out the end of time. For example, details of His second coming the prophecies of Jesus’ birth, so clearly that we could put exaltation, rule, suffering, them together and know and death (Isa. 7:14; exactly how and when it 52:13–54:17; Jer. 23:5; Mic. will occur?” The answer is 5:4) were written in such a quite simple: He didn’t set way that they could not be out to give us this kind of placed in chronological order information. His aim was to until they were fulfilled. 11 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. We can be thankful that (Mt. 25:1-13), 10 virgins are God doesn’t tell each of us invited to attend a wedding individually the exact time reception, but they have to or manner of our death. wait for the arrival of the Similarly, He didn’t give us a wedding procession. They precise answer to the what, know it is coming, but they when, and how questions don’t know just when. The regarding our Lord’s return. procession in which each It’s better for us to live in the person carries a lighted tension produced by the torch arrives, but five of the realization, “Perhaps today, girls can’t join the group but maybe not in my because they have no oil in lifetime.” their torches. However, the five who are prepared IMMINENCY become part of the rejoicing PARABLES company. The message is At the conclusion of the clear. “We don’t know when Olivet Discourse, Jesus told Jesus is coming back. two parables that shout out Therefore, be ready!” the message, “Be ready!” Down through the In the first one (Mt. centuries Bible expositors 24:45-51), the servant is left have applied these parables in charge while his master is to the church. The servant away on a trip. He begins who behaved wickedly and thinking that the owner will the five girls who had no oil be gone a long time, so he represent professing abuses the people under Christians who are not truly him and lives it up. But the saved. When Jesus comes master returns unexpectedly unexpectedly for His own, and punishes him severely. He will punish them and In the second parable exclude them from His 12 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. banquet hall. What a call to moment, pretribulational readiness! What a powerful doctrine of Christ’s return intimation of imminency! relates to its supposed recent origin. Some posttribulationists attempt SOME DON’T to show that it began in the AGREE 1820s with an unstable W hen the Lord Scottish clergyman named appears in the air Edward Irving. They say unexpectedly to that he was the first person take His people to heaven, to develop the idea that many Christians will be Christ’s return would occur just as surprised as non- in two stages, and that an Christians. That is because eccentric named Margaret many believers are not Macdonald picked up on his convinced that the rapture teaching during the 1830s. of the church could occur Then, a few years later, at any moment. They know J. N. Darby and several that Jesus is coming back, other Plymouth Brethren but they do not see His teachers further developed return in two stages. They the idea of the two-stage don’t keep an eye on the sky. return. Posttribulationists Let’s look at their objections tell us to reject the any- to an imminent rapture. moment rapture idea because it, like the OBJECTION: teachings of the Mormons The Any-Moment and Jehovah’s Witnesses, is Rapture Is A Recent of recent and dubious origin. Idea In Church Before we obey these History. A common critics and bid farewell to objection to the any- our belief in the rapture, let’s 13 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. think through their charge. the Roman Empire and Was the any-moment sometimes thought of teaching really new? Did the themselves as already in two-stage teaching originate the great tribulation. with evil, irresponsible Christians down through people as posttribulationists the centuries, mindful of the claim? Did the teaching of warning of Jesus that His the second coming develop coming would catch the differently from other world by surprise, never important doctrines? We’ll felt comfortable saying that find that each of the above Jesus Christ could not come questions can be given at any moment. Many a solid answer of no. Christians expected Christ’s 1. The any-moment return during great natural idea was not new. The disasters like earthquakes writings of the church fathers or tornadoes. When the are filled with warnings to dust storms during the live in continual readiness early 1930s caused an for our Lord’s return. These eerie daytime darkness in men applied the parable of some of our midwestern Jesus about the wise and states, many Christians foolish virgins to the people panicked, thinking that the of their age, urging them to second coming was at hand. keep their lamps burning The idea that the Lord so they would be ready for could come at any moment Jesus at His return for them. certainly did not originate They probably didn’t see the with Edward Irving. In fact, need to develop a concept it didn’t even originate with of two stages in the Lord’s Darby. He simply tried to return because they tended develop a biblical viewpoint to identify the Antichrist with that would explain how the 14 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. imminent-return idea could Augustine, Luther, Calvin, be harmonized with the and Wesley, had flaws and teaching of the Bible about a blind spots. But like them, tribulation prior to the return. they were also sincere 2. The Plymouth men of God who made Brethren who developed tremendous contributions the two-stage teaching to the church in both were biblical scholars. leadership and doctrine. The claim that Irving and 3. The method of Macdonald clearly taught development for this two- the two-stage second coming stage return idea is similar doctrine rests on flimsy to that of other doctrines. evidence. In fact, their The doctrines of justification, writings on this subject sanctification, and God’s are confusing. While Darby sovereignty, though taught and his Plymouth Brethren by Christian leaders down associates may have picked through the centuries, were up some ideas from Irving never as fully developed as and Macdonald, they they were by Luther, Calvin, developed their teaching and Wesley. Throughout the through a careful and years of church history, the systematic study of the Holy Spirit has led the Scriptures in the original Lord’s people into clearer languages. They were understanding of God’s systematic in the application Word in every area of of the Scriptures. They Christian doctrine, including rejected some elements that of the second coming. of Irving’s teachings and In summary, the claim produced a sane and that we should abandon the coherent doctrine of last pretribulation, any-moment things. These men, like doctrine of Christ’s return 15 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. because of a recent and never support an argument dubious origin carries no by adding to the Bible weight. The logic that rejects something that isn’t there. a teaching on this basis One of those “somethings” demands that we also that isn’t found in God’s reject Luther’s teaching on Word is the word rapture. justification, Calvin’s insights When we use this word into God’s sovereignty, and to designate the time of Wesley’s contributions Jesus’ return in the air to toward an understanding take His followers to of sanctification. heaven, though, we are not violating Scripture. For example, the word Trinity The claim that we doesn’t appear in the Bible, should abandon the but posttribulationists don’t deny its truth. pretribulation, any- Where, then, does the moment doctrine term rapture come from? In of Christ’s return 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Paul said that living believers will because of a recent be “caught up” with the and dubious origin dead in Christ to meet the carries no weight. Lord in the air. The Greek word Paul used here is harpazo, which means “to OBJECTION: snatch away.” When the The Rapture Is Not Bible was translated into In Scripture. If we are to Latin, the scholars rendered consider ourselves people harpazo as rapturo. It is who “go by the Book,” we just a short step then from have to be careful that we rapturo to the English word 16 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. rapture. Therefore, although imminent because Jesus it is true that the word itself would have had to wait at does not appear in our least until Peter had passed English translation of from the scene at an old age. Scripture, the sense of Age is such a relative the word is surely there. term. Does this mean Peter Christians will be snatched would have to be 75 before away when the Lord Jesus’ words would be descends with a shout. fulfilled? In the New Testament era, lifespans OBJECTION: were much shorter than they Jesus’ Prophecy About are now. Paul, for example, Peter. Another objection to called himself “aged” when the doctrine of imminency he wrote to Philemon, and stems from what Jesus told he was probably in his fifties. Peter, as recorded in John Taking into account that 21. He said, “When you Peter was already in his mid- were younger, you girded thirties when Jesus spoke yourself and walked where those words, it would not be you wished; but when you very many years until he too are old, you will stretch out could consider himself old. your hands, and another Granted, there would will gird you and carry you have been a few years in the where you do not wish” first century during which (v.18). This prophecy, which anyone who knew of this we know now indicated that prediction would have Peter would be arrested and known that Jesus’ coming martyred, is used by some was not imminent, but that to refute the possibility of time was brief. Besides, imminency. The return of Peter was “old” by the time Christ could not have been Paul wrote his epistles. 17 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. NOW YOU SEE master magician pales in THEM, NOW comparison with what will occur when Jesus Christ YOU DON’T appears to end this age and usher in the day of the Lord! IMMINENT No mirrors, no stage hands, and no trickery will be CH COND AR SE needed when the Savior KINGDOM ACTERISTIC SET UP RAPTURE reaches out His arms and GLORIOUS makes millions of people— RETURN CO both living and dead— MING S IN disappear from earth. T E R N I NG VE Here’s how Paul YEARS described the disappearance of millions into the heavens. S everal years ago, Behold, I tell you a David Copperfield mystery: We shall not all astounded a national sleep, but we shall all be television audience by changed—in a moment, making the Statue of Liberty in the twinkling of an eye, “disappear.” Those who at the last trumpet. For watched the spectacle on the trumpet will sound, TV confessed bewilderment and the dead will be and amazement at such a raised incorruptible, and grand display of illusion. we shall be changed All the while, the audience (1 Cor. 15:51-52). knew, and Copperfield And in 1 Thessalonians himself agreed, it was all 4:16-17 he said: just a trick. The Lady The Lord Himself will never left her pedestal. descend from heaven with How that illusion by this a shout, with the voice of 18 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. an archangel, and with the indicates that all people who trumpet of God. And the trusted in Jesus from the Day dead in Christ will rise first. of Pentecost (the first time Then we who are alive and anyone was “in Christ”) until remain shall be caught up the moment of rapture—both together with them in the the living and the dead— clouds to meet the Lord in would join Jesus. This is an the air. And thus we shall event solely for Christians. always be with the Lord. Will this be a secret From these two passages event? Some Bible students we can learn several things refer to this “catching up” of about the rapture. the church as a secret Who will be rapture. They claim that only raptured? Imagine the Christians will hear the thrill of hearing the shout of shouts and trumpet blasts. the Lord, the voice of the Whether or not this is true, archangel, and the trumpet this event will hardly be of God. Imagine looking up secret. When whole and seeing Jesus with His congregations of people open arms, ready to hold disappear, when employees you for an eternity. Imagine suddenly vanish, when vital these things, though, only if public services are disrupted you are a Christian. In both by mass absenteeism, people of these passages, Paul is will notice. So no matter how addressing brethren, a term blinded the unbelieving that denotes fellow believers world may be to the events in Jesus Christ. Also, in in the sky, they’ll soon know Paul’s letter to the that something extraordinary Thessalonians, he has occurred. mentioned that the “dead in What happens to Christ” would rise first. This believers? A quick trip to 19 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. heaven is just the beginning telling them that His of the marvelous things that departure was related to will happen at the rapture. what He was doing for Apparently, the moment believers—preparing an living believers are ushered eternal dwelling place for into Christ’s presence, they them. Then He told them will receive their new bodies. He would be coming back Paul wrote, “We shall all be to take them to that place. If changed—in a moment, in Jesus does not take us to be the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. . . . For this corruptible must put on The rapture will incorruption, and this mortal hardly be secret. must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51-53). When whole Where will believers congregations of go? Posttribulationists teach people disappear, that when Jesus appears in the sky, Christians will rise when employees to meet Him, make a U- suddenly vanish, when turn, and descend to earth. vital public services Then Jesus will set up His earthly kingdom. Besides the are disrupted by obvious strangeness of this mass absenteeism, up-and-down scenario, this people will notice. theory has another problem. It seems to contradict John 14. After Jesus had made the with Him at the rapture, Upper Room announcement then what happened to His that He was departing, He promise of a place in His reassured His disciples by Father’s house? 20 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. WORLD OF worlds will be as different as JOY; WORLD any two societies have ever been. Let’s see what will OF TERROR be going on in these two divergent worlds in the years IMMINENT that separate the two stages of Jesus’ return. COND CH AR SE KINGDOM ACTERISTIC SET UP RAPTURE A TIME OF JOY: GLORIOUS AN AWARDS RETURN CO CEREMONY MING Few scenes are as touching S IN T E R N I NG VE and heartwarming as the YEARS awards presentations at the Olympic games. We can all T he rapture will recall specific athletes and change everything. their reactions as they In addition to calling received their medal and out the world’s population then proudly turned to gaze of Christians, it will create a upon their country’s flag as new society of people with the national anthem was glorified bodies far removed played. from the limits of earth. No In a small measure, this longer will this blue marble can help us see what will have a monopoly on the transpire for the raptured populace. And just as believers at the event called earth and heaven will the judgment seat of Christ be composed of entirely (2 Cor. 5:10). Soon after opposite groups of people, Jesus has called His so they will represent totally people together with a variant events. The two shout and a trumpet blast, 21 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. this presentation of those things that were done rewards will begin in on earth with God’s glory in heaven. Christians will mind will live on. Like gold stand before Christ the and silver, they cannot be Judge, either to be rewarded burned. The key elements with crowns (lit. a winner’s in testing these works wreath) for the good things will be their quality and the they have done for God, or to “suffer loss” for their failure or neglect. Christians will To understand what it stand before means to “suffer loss,” think again of the Olympic athlete. Christ the Judge The medalists earn the prize, and either be while those who lose rewarded with must step aside with the realization that they have crowns for the not gained the reward. They good things they are still members of their have done for God Olympic teams, of course, but they have suffered loss. or “suffer loss” What, then, will be God’s for their failure means of judging what was or neglect. worthy of honor and what wasn’t? First Corinthians 3:13-15 speaks of a trial motivation behind them. by fire. Any works that What kind of rewards can were done with a selfish the Christian work toward? motivation will perish in the At least five distinct crowns fire just as wood, hay, and are mentioned in Scripture. stubble are consumed. But • An incorruptible crown 22 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. for overcoming the old A TIME OF TERROR: nature (1 Cor. 9:25-27). ANTICHRIST AND • A crown of rejoicing JUDGMENT for being a soulwinner What a contrast there will (1 Th. 2:19-20). be between the best of times • A crown of life for in heaven and the worst of enduring persecution times on earth! Although and trials (Jas. 1:12; things may at first seem to Rev. 2:10). be tolerable, after Jesus • A crown of righteousness removes the Christians and for eagerly looking the restraining power of the forward to Christ’s Holy Spirit, the situation will return (2 Tim. 4:8). deteriorate quickly. Two • A crown of glory for events during this time will shepherding the flock spell trouble, terror, and of God (1 Pet. 5:4). tragedy for those left behind. The glory of the event The first—the revealing of is only beginning when all Antichrist—will precipitate the crowns are handed out, the second—the tribulation. for these rewards are not Referred to as the “man earned for personal gain. of sin” in 2 Thessalonians When Christians receive 2:3, Antichrist will gain their crowns at the power as the final king of judgment seat of Christ, the restored Roman Empire. they will give honor to Jesus Of course, a man who by casting them at His feet achieves the measure of (Rev. 4:10). Imagine the worldwide power that will scene as millions of glorified go to Antichrist cannot do believers offer their heavenly so without first conning his rewards to God for His fellowman into following glory! him. How he will do this is 23 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. not exactly known, but he 24:1,3,6), and sudden will probably show that he destruction (1 Th. 5:3). can create an orderly society out of one that has been reeling in chaos. In addition, Antichrist will not he will work miraculous be the only source wonders by the power of Satan. Yet his of suffering during benevolence will soon this time of turn to malevolence. He tribulation.These will fiercely persecute and attempt to slaughter all who days will also be accept Christ and would marked by great dare refuse his demand calamity—the that he be worshiped (Rev. 6:9-11). result of God’s Antichrist will not be judgment the only source of suffering and wrath. during this time of tribulation. In addition, these days will be marked Near the last part of the by great calamity that will great tribulation, Antichrist come as a result of God’s will unwittingly begin setting judgment and wrath (Joel the stage for an event on 1:15; Rev. 11:18; 16:9). God’s prophetic calendar Amid this devastation will that will be the grandest be the death of one quarter event of all time—the of the world’s population revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 6:8), massive at His glorious return. earthquakes (Isa. 2:19), catastrophic fires (Isa. 24 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. THE KING IS overrun Antichrist and his BACK—TO STAY! troops. Unfortunately for them and for the people of neighboring countries in the IMMINENT Middle East, Antichrist will CH COND lead his army to victory. As AR SE Daniel described it, “He KINGDOM ACTERISTIC SET UP RAPTURE shall enter the countries, GLORIOUS RETURN overwhelm them, and pass CO MING through. He shall also enter S IN T E R N I NG the Glorious Land, and VE many countries shall be YEARS overthrown” (Dan. 11:40-41). Yet all will not be calm in T he tensions that Antichrist’s camp. Despite his headline the nightly victories, he will hear rumors news from the Middle that new armies from the East in our day do not Orient are ready to attack. compare with the events Angrily, he will dispatch his that will mark the final troops to Jerusalem. Indeed, months of action during the the Eastern armies will tribulation. As the clock arrive, spelling trouble for the winds down on the reign of Jewish people. These new Antichrist, more and more armies will stand against the countries will align together Jews in Jerusalem—just as against him and do battle Antichrist’s troops will. Here’s with him in Palestine. how Zechariah described it: At the climax of those I will gather all the hostilities, armies of the “king nations to battle against of the north” and the “king of Jerusalem; the city shall be the south” will attempt to taken, the houses rifled, 25 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  26. 26. and the women ravished. This, then, is the second Half of the city shall go coming of Jesus Christ. The into captivity, but the King of the universe, who remnant of the people had appeared in the air just shall not be cut off from a few years before, will have the city (Zech. 14:2). The scene seems hopeless. The Jews have The King of the nowhere to turn as two universe, who had opposing armies sweep over appeared in the air them. There appears to be no way out for this war- just a few years wracked people. before, will come back to end the THE WARRIOR-KING INTERVENES tribulation and Suddenly, the scene will to establish His change. The heavens will millennial kingdom open and Jesus will return. He is portrayed as clothed in on earth. a robe dipped in blood and riding on a white horse as come back to end the He appears in the air to tribulation and to establish send his white-clothed army His millennial kingdom on against the armies of earth. Antichrist (Rev. 19:11-21). Victory will be swift and THE JUDGE-KING complete as the beast is HOLDS COURT captured and banished to Among Jesus’ first duties as the lake of fire, and his army He prepares to set up His is soundly defeated. 1,000-year reign is to sit in 26 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. judgment on several groups “brethren” during those of people. Remember that devastating years. Those He will have already judged who showed kindness to many when He distributed them showed their love for rewards to the raptured Jesus, so they will enter the saints after they were taken kingdom. The rest will be up to heaven. But now there “cast away” either because are new people to examine. they worshiped Antichrist or In the first days after our because they mistreated Lord’s return to earth, He Jews or both. will judge three groups: 1. Resurrected believers THE CREATOR-KING from before Pentecost, along RE-CREATES with martyred tribulation Shortly after Jesus’ glorious saints (Dan. 12:1-3). return, He will transform 2. Jews who had gone this age-old earth, reversing through the tribulation some of the fallout from the (Ezek. 20:33-44). Some will curse in the Garden of Eden. be allowed to become These changes will allow the citizens of the kingdom and inhabitants of earth to enjoy some will be cast into a time of prosperity and Hades. Their destination will happiness unparalleled depend on whether they in human history. His re- chose to accept Christ or to creation will be marked by: follow Antichrist and his Increased revolt. Productivity. Isaiah said 3. Gentiles (Mt. 25). that “the desert shall rejoice What Jesus will do with and blossom as the rose; it Gentiles who endured the shall blossom abundantly” tribulation will depend on (Isa. 35:1-2). Evidently, new how they treated Christ’s areas of land will be made 27 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  28. 28. fruitful, and this new source assured that His plans for of usable land will lead to a this time will surely cause time of great prosperity. our lives to be more Even the fishing will enjoyable. improve (Ezek. 47:9). Better Weather. THE RULER-KING Notice again the words of REIGNS Isaiah, who wrote, “Then He The millennial kingdom of will give the rain for your our Lord Jesus Christ will not seed with which you sow the be a democracy. Rather it will ground, and bread of the be a benevolent dictatorship. increase of the earth; it will Another way of describing be fat and plentiful” (Isa. it would be to call it a 30:23). Jesus’ transforming theocracy—a government work will include changes in led by God. As ruler of the the climate of earth. The sun earth during this time, Jesus will be more radiant, and will be a king who will “reign even the moon will shine and prosper, and execute brighter (v.26). judgment and righteousness Peaceful in the earth” (Jer. 23:5). Coexistence Of As King, Jesus will do Animals. “The wolf also what no other leader in shall dwell with the lamb, history has been able to do. the leopard shall lie down He will govern with absolute with the young goat, the calf authority, righteousness, and the young lion and the and justice. Finally, after so fatling together” (Isa. 11:6- many failures on the part of 7). Although we don’t know mankind, a utopian world how this will affect such will have arrived. Jesus will things as the food chain rule as we have always among animals, we can be desired leaders to rule. 28 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. HELPING YOU will come unexpectedly. HELP OTHERS 4. Why is it so important for us to live with the A s you study the second expectation that Christ coming with others, could return at any try using these moment? (2 Pet. 3:10-14; questions as discussion 1 Jn. 2:28–3:3). starters. You’ll find that digging into the Word will CHARACTERISTICS create a hunger for clear OF THE RAPTURE teaching and analysis of 1. List as many the topic. characteristics as you can about the EVIDENCE FOR rapture of the church. AN ANY-MOMENT 2. According to RETURN 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, 1. What biblical evidence what is in store for suggests that Christ’s Christians who will be return will be in two raptured? phases? 3. How does Jesus’ promise 2. Why is the distinction in John 14:1-3 that He between Israel and would go to prepare a the church basic to place for His followers fit understanding prophecy? into the rapture picture? 3. How can the following conflict be resolved? The Bible teaches that many dramatic events will precede the Lord’s second coming, but it also predicts that Christ 29 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. CHRIST’S all the spare space was filled. RETURN AND Then, on the night before their parents were to return, YOU Richard and Marvin rolled R ichard De Haan, up their sleeves and had a f ormer president marathon dishwashing and teacher of session. Although the young RBC Ministries, used to De Haans never got caught tell a story on himself that with their dishes dirty, pictures the readiness Richard commented, “How Christians should have ashamed we would have when they think of the been if our parents had rapture. When Richard and come back earlier than we his brother Marvin were still expected!” living at home, their parents, The imminent return of Dr. and Mrs. M. R. De Haan our Lord Jesus should lead would often have to go out us to a similar sentiment. of town for speaking How ashamed we would engagements. The boys be if He came back and enjoyed the independence we weren’t expecting Him. of being left alone—except Unlike our illustration, we for one thing. They detested do not know exactly when doing the dishes. Jesus will return in the air On one such occasion, to take His people to be with they put off sticking their Him. As a result, we should hands in soapy dishwater live in a continual state of as long as possible. They expectancy. We shouldn’t stacked the grimy plates, be stacking our “dirty glasses, and silverware in the dishes” all over; we should oven after each meal. Soon constantly keep our lives all the dishes were dirty and clean and in line with what 30 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. God expects from us. gospel should propel us into That’s not the only part a deeper concern for the lost. of our lives that should be Let’s look at it another affected by the hope of an way. Suppose you knew any-moment return of our exactly when Jesus would Lord. In addition, we should come back. You would probably have a “To Do” list that would fill pages: Temporal goals • Write letters. lose some of their • Make phone calls. • Pay back money owed. importance when we • Apologize for realize that we might wrongs done. not have as much • Tell neighbors about Jesus. time as we thought • Pray for unsaved to accomplish things family members. of eternal value. • Spend more time reaching out to the lost. And on and on the list have a sense of urgency could go. More than anything toward those who don’t else, we would want to get know Jesus. All too often everything squared away we live as if we have all the before the big day that was time in the world to convey coming closer every second. the message of salvation, Although we would be secure when in reality we don’t in our salvation, we would even know if we will have want to do all we could to the rest of the day to do so. further the Lord’s work in the The prospect of lost time we had remaining. opportunities to share the The fact that we don’t 31 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  32. 32. know the day and time of own, those who have never Jesus’ return, though, accepted Him will be left shouldn’t deter us from doing behind to face a time of exactly that. We may not trouble and difficulty this have the assurance that we world has never before seen. can accomplish everything God’s wrath will be poured on that “To Do” list, but we out over the face of the should have those kinds of earth. Death, destruction, goals—perhaps with more deceit, and danger will reign. urgency. Temporal goals lose It’s a prospect that should some of their importance cause every thinking person when we realize that we to consider seriously the might not have as much time claims of Jesus Christ. as we thought to accomplish Yes, Jesus is coming back. things of eternal value. Perhaps He will come today. There is another, even Are you ready? If not, you more important, can be. Without another consideration. Everyone who second’s delay, pray knows that Jesus Christ could something like this: “Lord come back at any moment Jesus, I admit that I’m a must do some serious sinner. I believe the Bible thinking. Beyond making lists and what it says about You. of good things that need to Realizing that You gave Your be done, each person must life for me, that you died for make sure that he knows my sins and arose from the Jesus Christ as personal dead, I am trusting You and Savior. That is the single You alone for my salvation.” most important commitment That is the first and most any man, woman, or child important step in getting could ever make. ready for His return, a return After Jesus returns for His that may be today! 32 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  33. 33. Get your free Bible Resources catalog! Discovery Series booklets can be valuable guides to help you learn what the Bible says about a broad range of topics. Each 32-page booklet can be used in your personal Bible study or in a small-group setting. Your free Bible Resources catalog includes a brief description of each Discovery Series booklet. To get your copy, write to us at the address below and ask for a catalog. Or follow the link below to request your copy today. www.discoveryseries.org/catalog USA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222 Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7